Tips to Recognize Useless Words
We find the most common example of “or” mixed with unnecessary words in the phrase “on or about.” If the document filed was dated “June 30, 2013,” signed by counsel and dated again “June 30, 2013,” and stamped by the clerk “June 30, 2013, why do we still write, “On or about June 30, 2013, Plaintiff filed . . . .”? The situation will always be one or the other: either we will know the date, “On June 30, 2013,” or we will not know the date, “About June 30, 2013”; but we can’t know the date and also not know the date:
or about the same time, Paulson terminated his agreement with Vitrex.
At or about the same time, Paulson terminated his agreement with Vitrex.
Just for fun, I googled “on or about means” and got 6.5 billion results in a quarter of a second. (And since I got the results back so fast, that gave me more time to sift through them all.) No wonder we’re confused.
So look for the “or” or look for the “or.” Either way, it will help you spot unnecessary words.